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  • Writer's pictureVictimsFirst

Open Letter from Mass Shooting Families/Survivors Addressing the Colorado Healing Fund

As the Colorado Healing Fund doubles down on its re-victimizing model and continues to disseminate disinformation, families of mass shootings across the country want to set the record straight as donors, the public, and the media are still being misled.

We are sick of the gaslighting and attempts by the Colorado Healing Fund to cover its tracks. First, the Colorado Healing Fund diverted donations away from mass shooting victims. Now they are diverting attention away from the facts as they continue to divert donations to nonprofits under the guise of “victim services” without any transparency about where those donations are headed.

1). The Colorado Healing Fund states that 100% is going to victim services. That means it is still giving 100% of the funds they are collecting to local nonprofits. Stating that “100% goes to victim services” is a purposeful spin to confuse donors further to deflect from the fact that the money is still going to nonprofits, with a small portion going to victims.

Legally, the Colorado Healing Fund cannot give donations directly to victims. The Colorado Healing Fund is set up to collect donations for community nonprofits. It is the same method tried in Aurora (before mass shooting families stopped it). It is the same method The Colorado Healing Fund succeeded in doing to Boulder families and to the Sol Tribe families and they are trying to get away with it again after the Club Q shooting. They are using the donations from the murder of Colorado citizens to fund the nonprofits and programs of their choosing.

The victims themselves have no choice in the matter because the Colorado Healing Fund uses donations as theirs and decides what to do with those funds.

Again, the Colorado Healing Fund is not giving 100% directly to victims of the Club Q shooting, despite what recent headlines state. Even reporters are confused by their language, which then confuses the public and donors themselves:

Example of how the media is being misled by the Colorado Healing Fund. Victims will not get all of the donations collected by the Colorado Healing Fund. 100% directly to victims is still not their model, even with their administration fee covered.

Another example of how the media is being misled by the Colorado Healing Fund. Victims will not get all of the donations collected by the Colorado Healing Fund. 100% directly to victims is still not their model, even with their administration fee covered.

2). Immediate Needs: In their press conference, The Colorado Healing Fund incorrectly stated, “No other funds are able to get money out as quickly as we are.” This is patently false. There are other national nonprofit organizations that are standing by ready to help mass shooting victims with direct financial assistance and have helped in multiple mass shootings to date.

Mass shootings are not endemic to Colorado, which is why there are national models that guarantee 100% to victims.

Why should Colorado Club Q victims and survivors get any less?

3). Lack of Transparency: The Colorado Healing Fund is not transparent about what local nonprofits they are choosing to give donations to. In Boulder, no one knew where the donations were going until after they had been granted to other nonprofits. There are still 6 organizations that received funds from Boulder donations that still have not been named.

For Club Q, what are the “victim services” nonprofits that are receiving donations from the Colorado Healing Fund?

4). Confusing Language: The Colorado Healing Fund has been confusing the public for years. They make the public and victims believe that all donations are going “directly to victims and their families” when, in fact, donations go to nonprofits. Look at the language they used to grab donations after the Boulder shooting:

The Colorado Healing Fund's Quarterly Reports show that 100% of the donations collected for victims did not go directly to victims and their families after the Boulder shooting. The Colorado Healing Fund cannot and does not give directly to victims.

In Boulder, the Colorado Healing Fund also claimed there were “victims accounts” at First Bank that the public could donate into. There were not. There was just one account for the Colorado Healing Fund. How is this public manipulation even legal or allowed?

5). False Statements: The Colorado Healing Fund falsely stated that they do not decide where donations go for victims. But, by deciding what community nonprofits they give to, they are deciding how the donations they collect for victims are allocated. This is a fact supported by their own documentation and forms the basis of their organizational structure and mission.

They take money collected for victims and use it for whatever projects and programs they want to. This methodology is not supported by scientific research. Our lived experience, upon which the science is based, knows this method inflicts harm by keeping vital funds away from victims and survivors while they are trying to cope and manage their grief and trauma.

6). Funding: The Colorado Healing Fund’s Executive Director Jordan Finegan stated in their press conference, “We fall within a very specific niche that we haven’t been able to get state funding or federal funding at this moment. Also with a lot of foundations, we don’t fall within their grant-making space, so we’ve had to find new ways for us to be able to get funding.”

However, they were funded by the State of Colorado in 2018 and also received a Federal PPP grant in 2020.

$1M was provided by the State of Colorado to fund the Colorado Healing Fund.

The Colorado Healing Fund received federal PPP funding from FirstBank.

7). Accounting Issues: There have been serious problems with both the Colorado Healing Fund and COVA financials. Both are nonprofits. There have been previously documented mistakes in their accounting involving thousands of dollars with the Colorado Healing Fund and, in the case of COVA, hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, the Colorado Healing Fund states they are “a safe way to donate” to mass shooting victims.

There are documented accounting mistakes and as of December 7, 2022, no independent audit has been provided accounting for donations collected in 2021.

A federal audit showed the COVA has also mishandled money intended for victims/survivors.

Did COVA implement those “thousands of changes” within the 9 months prior to the Boulder shooting? Are they even resolved yet?

The financials provided in the Colorado Healing Fund’s current quarterly reports also raise questions that can only be answered through an independent audit, which they have yet to publish or provide to the public. Has an independent audit even been completed?

8). Administration Costs: Whoever paid for the Colorado Healing Fund’s administration costs is not showing a grand gesture of solidarity with Club Q shooting victims. Rather, they have invested in the continued exploitation of mass shooting victims by nonprofits.

Local nonprofits, which have a 501(c)(3) status, can fundraise for their programs/services and do not have to take donations intended for victims.

By covering those administration costs, the nonprofit industrial complex has worked together, behind closed doors, to secure funds for nonprofits that were collected off the backs of mass shooting victims.

It’s not about a difference of opinion or model, it’s about an unethical method of taking money from generous people who donate for victims after a mass shooting, and then using it for whatever projects and programs the Colorado Healing Fund decides upon.

They never even establish a Centralized Victims Fund with the intention of 100% going to victims.

9). Predatory Model: The Colorado Healing Fund is considered predatory by mass shooting victims both in Colorado and nationally because it is sustained by the murder, grief, maiming, and trauma of its own citizens. In other words, the Colorado Healing Fund uses the murder of Colorado citizens to fund itself and the programs of other nonprofits. The Colorado Healing Fund sits and waits for the next mass shooting to happen to collect funds for themselves and other nonprofits.

Perhaps everyone needs to revisit what victims of mass shootings across this country are telling them:

Victims involved in shootings in Colorado who have suffered at the hands of the Colorado Healing Fund continue to tell them that their method inflicts harm by diverting donations intended for victims to other nonprofits – which is what they are still doing to Club Q victims. You can read about their feelings of re-victimization at the hand of the Colorado Healing Fund here:

Those who know what happened to the Sol Tribe shooting families behind the scenes are also speaking up to shine a light on how the Colorado Healing Fund makes survivors feel re-victimized, as well as the nonprofit’s lack of transparency:

10). The issue is not only that the Colorado Healing Fund doubled their administration fee from 5% in Boulder to 10% for Club Q. Even with the administration costs paid, 100% of the donations never have gone directly to the victims.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Ask what percentage of the reported $8M collected after the Boulder shooting – $4.6M+ claimed by Colorado Healing Fund – did the Boulder victims actually receive directly?

$160,000.00 of the donations collected after the King Soopers shooting in Boulder was granted to the Museum of Boulder (when, according to their 2021 Annual Report, they were operating at a deficit nearly equivalent to that amount). The Boulder Strong exhibit was not free to the public, but required visitors to pay an admission fee. Of the donations collected for Boulder victims $959,000 and then another $261,000 was granted to the Boulder Strong Resource Center, $200,000 was given to the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center, and $529,000 was given to 6 grantees for other community projects (there was no Transparency about what those were). The Colorado Healing Fund also held back $570,000, according to their records. And they took $221,000 for themselves. When all said and done, about half of the donations funded programs and projects around town. Those donations did not go to victims.

11). The Colorado Healing Fund does not know better than the victims themselves, and Steve Siegel’s paternalistic mindset is antiquated. This is the same long-term, needs-based model that he wanted to implement after the Aurora theater shooting via the 7/20 Recovery Committee, but traumatized parents of murdered children were forced to get up off their knees in grief to stop it. And they did.

Years later, in 2021, after 10 people were murdered in a grocery store in Boulder, grieving families of the deceased pleaded with the Colorado Healing Fund to stop. Those victims were ignored and even treated poorly. For example, when a Boulder victim who was dying asked for the donations that were already intended for their family, Jordan Finegan (Executive Director of the Colorado Healing Fund) labeled this urgent and desperate plea as “demands” and said it wasn’t part of “our strategic plan of funds distribution.”

We have the documentation of the pleas of victims and the callous responses from both Jordan Finnegan (Executive Director of the Colorado Healing Fund) and a victims advocate from the D.A.’s office in Boulder.

Finally, victims’ families and survivors do not want outsiders meddling in their lives for the rest of their lives, constantly probing them by “assessing their needs.”

12). Humiliating and Unnecessary Needs-Based Assessment: The small portion of public donations that the Colorado Healing Fund decides to give to victims is granted to COVA for distribution. COVA does not distribute those funds equitably to the victim base. They also conduct an invasive, humiliating, 30-, 60- and 90-day needs-based assessment that no victim should have to be subjected to in the aftermath of a mass shooting. Colorado Healing Fund knows that is COVA’s process.

As reported by John Ingold in the Colorado Sun.

13). Long-Term Needs: What Colorado Healing Fund considers “victims services” and solutions for “long-term needs” does not work for anyone. This is why different generations of mass shooting victims across the country, including from Colorado, joined together, yet again, to tell the public and the Colorado Healing Fund that their structure does not work for victims.

Holding donations back for “long-term needs” is a way for the Colorado Healing Fund to gather interest on those funds. The Colorado Healing Fund also held back $570,000 for “long-term needs” from the Boulder donations, then refused to give funds to the widower of a murdered victim a year later when he was in declining health and told them that his time was short.

As we continue to say: No one wants to be handcuffed to a nonprofit for the rest of their life waiting for donations that were already intended for us. It’s like having a conservator over your funds that no court appointed, probing incessantly asking about your needs and then never meeting those needs.

Jordan Finegan also stated last year in a ClubHouse presentation that they are telling corporate donors: “You've given us this money, but don’t give us a deadline on pushing it out just because of corporate responsibility.”

Corporate responsibility is the cornerstone of ethical business practices in this country.

14). Science and the NMVVRC Toolkit: The Colorado Healing Fund also tried to justify their flawed method by claiming it is based on a toolkit published by the National Mass Violence Victimization Resource Center (NMVVRC). Our Best Practices, put together by our own families over years, was taken to South Carolina by one of the fathers from the Virginia Tech shooting who is in our network. That father also endorses that 100% should go directly to victims. This shows how little these self-proclaimed “experts” actually know about mass shooting knowledge and how it is generated. They are trying to use our experiences against us to justify a model we vehemently oppose.

15). Infringing on the privacy of victims: The Colorado Healing Fund stated, “We can call it gaps in service, but what it is an opportunity to get a relationship developed the best way possible with the people that were harmed and find out from their perspective what their needs are.”

Why does this nonprofit think that they have a right to have a relationship with mass shooting victims? Why does this nonprofit think that they need to have a relationship with a victim in order to give them funds already collected for them? Who gave this nonprofit the right to evaluate a mass shooting victims’ long-term needs and hold money back from them? Who gave the Colorado Healing Fund this power?

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